I’m starting to have pregnancy on the brain again. A lot of my friends are pregnant or have just had a new baby. Our youngest is almost 20 months old — twice, we already had another baby when our toddlers were this age! So you can see why I’m thinking about it now.
In the past several months, I’ve talked about postpartum weight loss and postpartum hormone balance. I think, especially if you have already been pregnant, these are great places to start. Even if this is your first pregnancy, you might want to read those just to get a sense of what you’re facing in nine months or so. 🙂
Our Healthy Goals
When we say “healthy pregnancy,” what we mean is a pregnancy that happens easily and is free from complications. That means:
- Little to no morning sickness
- No blood sugar issues/gestational diabetes
- Avoid miscarriages or losses
- No anemia
- No bleeding
- Relatively good energy
- No constipation
There are some pregnancy symptoms everyone has, and they are normal. For example, being hungrier, thirstier, and sleepier (especially in the beginning). Some women have a little bit of acne at the beginning too, as their hormones surge. Many women experience some soreness in their hips and back, especially towards the end. There are changes that happen in your body because of accommodating another person that are just par for the course.
Many “common” pregnancy symptoms (like insomnia, anemia, severe morning sickness, and constipation) aren’t really normal, and you don’t have to have them. With that in mind, let’s talk about how to prepare!
You should know this is based on my research and experience with four pregnancies. I’m not a doctor or midwife and I don’t know your circumstances. If you have unique circumstances or if you are high-risk, please speak to a health professional before taking any of this advice. You know to look at lots of sources anyway, right?
#1: Build Up Your Gut
This probably isn’t one you’ll see on most lists, but I think it’s a really important one (that’s why it’s first). Your gut flora will impact so many parts of your baby’s development. It can impact whether or not your baby has allergies or asthma! Plus, it can impact how your blood sugar is balanced, whether or not you’ll be deficient in any nutrient (which impacts baby’s vital organ systems, if you’re deficient), whether or not you’ll have yeast infections/thrush, whether or not you’ll be GBS positive, and more. Having healthy gut flora helps to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, more than almost anything else.
I recommend starting a quality probiotic supplement at least a few months before becoming pregnant. I also recommend adding fermented foods to your diet regularly — yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi. This is especially important if you have allergies, eczema, or frequent yeast infections, indicating that you already have some gut damage to heal. Start this routine as soon as you know you want to become pregnant (even if it’s several months, or even years before that time will come). It’s a good idea to vary the types of probiotics that you take, changing brands or adding new foods now and then (don’t just eat yogurt daily and nothing else) so that you get a wide variety of different strains.
#2: Eat a Nourishing Diet
Another key way to prepare your body for pregnancy is to consume a nourishing diet. This means a diet filled with organic fruits and vegetables; pastured eggs, meat, and dairy; nuts; whole grains (preferably soaked or soured), etc. Choose real food, and choose the foods that make you feel the strongest. There’s no single “super food” that you have to include, but most of your choices should be nourishing and low-sugar. This is especially important because once you get pregnant, you may struggle a bit to eat in your first trimester.
I have personally found that works best for me is to eat a diet that’s very rich in fruits and vegetables when preparing for pregnancy or newly pregnant — lots of leafy greens, vegetable soups, smoothies, plus fresh single fruits and veggies. I limit fat somewhat, but try to consume at least some with every meal. (For example, I might eat tomato slices, drizzled with just a little dressing.) As pregnancy progresses, I consume a more omnivorous diet, and by the final trimester and into the first few months of exclusive breastfeeding, I crave animal foods heavily — butter, whole milk, eggs, and also nuts. (Higher-fat foods.) You may have a different experience, and I’ll expand on these ideas in a separate post.
#3: Begin Nourishing Supplements
It can be hard to get enough nutrients at the beginning of pregnancy, especially if morning sickness hits you, so building up your stores of nutrients with specific supplements before pregnancy is a good idea. I take an herbal prenatal vitamin, liver pills, cod liver oil, and a probiotic supplement. I also use magnesium lotion nightly (which seems to cut down on morning sickness a lot, and improves sleep). I recommend all of these, especially over store-bought supplements, which can have non-ideal additives. Some moms may choose to take a separate folate supplement, too, but if you choose this, make sure it is actually folate and not folic acid — folate is more bioavailable and safer.
#4: Start Exercising Lightly
Birth, eventually, will require stamina and some flexibility. Plus, you’ll be sore in the later months of pregnancy because of the weight of the baby on your hips, back, and muscles in general. Begin a light exercise program, like stretching, easy yoga, or even short daily walks, to help improve your fitness level. If you’re not used to regular exercise, choose something you’ll be able to keep up throughout pregnancy.
If you are already very fit and exercise regularly, there is no need to change your routine. At some point in pregnancy, depending on how you feel, you may need to scale back. After the first trimester, you should not exercise lying on your back, and obviously you should avoid crunches or anything that targets the abdominal muscles roughly. Some women keep running long distances throughout their pregnancies; others stop or cut back after a few months or so. Listen to your body.
#5: See a Chiropractor
Chiropractic care can be very helpful throughout pregnancy, by helping to keep your back and hips aligned, cutting down on pain. It can ease birth and certain techniques can even help turn a breech baby. However, I personally feel hesitant about starting with a chiropractor while pregnant. I believe it’s best to start before pregnancy so that the chiropractor can know your body and possibly take x-rays, if desired, safely. Your body will change during pregnancy, as the hormone relaxin loosens your muscles and joints. Adjusting a pregnant woman is not the same as a non-pregnant woman. Choose a chiropractor who is experienced with pregnant women and get started with monthly visits a few months before conception.
My chiropractor chooses to see pregnant women monthly to weekly in the early part of their pregnancy (depending on their situation and how often they feel it is needed) and then more frequently at the end, up to three times a week in the final weeks. Again, this is dependent on the woman’s needs. He will even make house calls, if needed, during labor!
#6: Get Extra Rest
Pregnancy is going to make you very tired, especially in the early weeks. It’s a lot of work to grow a baby! If possible, try to get extra rest before you even conceive. Prioritize rest instead of staying up late working (like I do…). If you have older children, encourage them to sleep more at night, or ask your husband to take overnight duty. Co-sleeping might be the best choice for some families so that if your children do wake, you don’t have to get up to go to them. For other families, sleeping in separate rooms brings the best night’s rest for all. Try to aim to be in bed by 10, and if possible carve out time to rest by reading or napping if possible in the afternoon. Once you’re pregnant you’ll really want this!
#7: Take Regular Baths
Baths are excellent for promoting relaxation as well as minor detox (if you add bentonite clay or bath salts). I recommend using both prior to pregnancy but choosing only bath salts once you are pregnant. A few drops of lavender oil is a nice addition too. Get into the habit of regular baths, because down the line, they can be a great way to soothe sore hips, and aching legs and backs. Epsom salts add magnesium, which many pregnant women lack, and which may help with sleep, constipation, restless legs, and even morning sickness. Plus, later in pregnancy, you’ll be able to bond with baby — lie back in the tub and watch baby squirm and kick! (This was always one of my favorite parts of pregnancy.)
#8: Find an Emotional Outlet
Pregnancy is a huge change in your life. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time, the fourth, or the tenth. You will have fears about getting pregnant — will I be able to? Will I have serious morning sickness? Will my baby be healthy? Can I handle motherhood? More than likely, you will have days where you are absolutely ecstatic to be pregnant, and days where you wonder “what did I just do?” (I know I really went back and forth with this with my first!) Make sure you have someone you can talk to, start keeping a journal, or find some other sort of emotional outlet. I participated in online pregnancy groups with my early pregnancies, so that I could chat with other moms in the same boat and really obsess about each little detail (back when I had time!). I also talked to my husband and my mother quite a bit and kept a journal. You need to have an outlet because your emotions will run high in pregnancy!
This is especially important if you have a history of anxiety or depression. You may be at greater risk of suffering during pregnancy, or postpartum, and you will need a support system to cope — plus, someone who knows you well enough to get you help if needed.
With these 8 ways, you’ll be physically and emotionally prepared for pregnancy when the time comes!
How do you prepare for a new pregnancy?